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Fort Miles Stories Spark Interest
By Kate House-Layton   - 01/23/2006

Delaware State News

More Info on This Book: Fort Miles

Dr. Gary Wray and his new book, Fort Miles
To Dr. Gary Wray, Delaware is blessed.

“This tiny little state, it has two of the greatest forts of the 20th century,” he said.

The history professor at Wilmington College and Delaware Technical & Community College’s Owens Campus was referring to Fort Delaware near Delaware City and Fort Miles at Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes.

Dr. Wray, president of the Fort Miles Historical Association, said the fort was the country’s World War II version of homeland security, built to defend the Delaware Bay from the Germans.

Through the efforts of the historical association and Lee Jennings, historian for Delaware State Parks, the Lewes fort is becoming an interpretive museum and tourist attraction.

Mr. Jennings said the state parks agency has been working on restoring the barracks, recreational and officers’ buildings.

To further enhance the center, the state recently had 12-inch, 8-inch, 6-inch, 3-inch and 155 mm mounted military guns, which resemble cannons, brought to the fort from Virginia.

“We want to have representational looks at what was there,” Mr. Jennings said. “Unless you see it, it’s not a correlation.”

Much work and about $20,000 in state funding went into getting the guns to Fort Miles, Mr. Jennings said.

Most of the equipment had been sitting in a military scrap yard in Virginia.

Part of moving the guns to Delaware involved getting a crane to hoist the equipment onto a truck large enough to bear the heavy weapons.

The guns are now at Fort Miles on permanent loan from the U.S. Navy and are in the process of being mounted, Dr. Wray said.

Fort Miles also played a role in the Cold War, Mr. Jennings said.

The site had one of the first sets of underwater listening stations used to monitor Soviet submarines.

The state is re-establishing the fort’s underwater listening station, which has about 100 microphones still in place and slated for testing.

If all goes as planned, there would be 15 stations for visitors to sit and listen to ocean activity, from ships to sea life.

“Because the Delaware Bay is so heavily traveled by ships that come and go all the time, we can make all that stuff happen,” Mr. Jennings said.

Interest in Fort Miles is wider spread than just Delaware.

The Fort Miles Historic Association has about 400 members from around the country, Dr. Wray said.

Combining their research on the historic site, Mr. Jennings and Dr. Wray have co-authored a book on the fort, due out at the end of the month, from Arcadia Publishing, which has produced history books on Dover and Milford.

The pair collaborated on the book last year, with the writing taking about four months, Mr. Jennings said.

“We knew what we wanted to say,” he said.

Distilling their research and pictures was a challenge.

Politically, the two are polar opposites and their approaches to things are quite different.

Despite that, they work together well and are close, Mr. Jennings said.

“Neither one of us could have written a book by ourselves,” Dr. Wray said. “It’s really been a labor of love.”

Mr. Jennings said he has talked with eight veterans who were stationed at Fort Miles during the war, including a telephone dispatcher who was the only woman allowed past the fort’s fence.

“They have come through with not only really great stories but great pictures, a lot of which were used in the book and that tell us more about the day-to-day goings-on there,” Mr. Jennings said.

The book will be available through Amazon.com and area bookstores.

Dr. Wray on Thursday was taking e-mail from people interested in getting a copy.

“What we’re finding is there is an influx of people who are coming into Delaware from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia who want to learn about Delaware history,” he said.

Post comments on this issue at newszapforums.com/forum41

Staff writer Kate House-Layton

can be reached at 741-8242

or khouse@newszap.com

Buy It Now: Fort Miles $21.99

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